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How do birds help in the garden?  We love to look at them, and listen to them.  We love to feed them and count them.  But, what in the course of nature requires them to be part of our environment?  When you look up “birds” on-line, it’s mostly about how to protect your fruit and veggies from the birds.  How do they HELP us?

Well, WOW!  I looked up “how do birds help gardeners” and came up with an Audubon page that goes into great detail!  It’s not brief…but if you’re up for a little reading, go to that Audubon link!  You will be educated!

First, they help us with “insect control”.  Think of the great saving of the Mormon crops in 1846!  That katydid got the name “Mormon Cricket, because of this incident.  220px-SeaGull69The California Seagull, which was the savior bird, was then named the State Bird of Utah!  There are many other examples of a similar symbiosis.  Remember, birds are busy eating grubs and insects in our gardens all the time!

Next we should consider all the “road kill” on our highways.  Crows and Ravens are meat eaters.  This is why you often see those black birds sitting on the railings along our highways.  They are waiting for dinner to be delivered!

 

 

These birds are scavengers who help us by keeping our environment clear of rotting carrion.  Imagine what would happen in India where cows are considered sacred.  People cannot pick them up and dispose of them…but vultures do the job very admirably!

Birds also disperse seeds and nuts.  It isn’t always that we as gardeners appreciate that particular skill, but it’s how nature works.kortsnavelelenia-tewksbury

Remember the quote “Canary in the Coal Mine”?  Birds can be used as markers as to how our environment is functioning, not only in the coal mines, but because they are so small, bad things tend to happen to them first.  Rachel Carson used birds as an example in her book, “Silent Spring“.

Birds even draw people out of their homes to “bird watch“.  There is a whole “Eco-tourism” faction in our travel world.  Some people will travel continents away to see another bird they’ve never seen before!

images.duckduckgoThere are birds that pollinate flowers.  Remember our own beloved hummingbirds.

images.duckduckgoMigrating water fowl help farmers by foraging for bugs, grains and straw left from spent fields.  By foraging those fields they also leave their own “manure” hence fertilizing the fields naturally.  It means that farmers do not have to “till”, either at all, or in some cases,  less.

418_Spruce_Nyjer_SmAnyway, the next time you see a bird in the garden, remember they fill MANY roles.  Be glad they are there, and enjoy them!

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Autumn is surely here! IMG_7026 The trees have turned color, started dropping their leaves and begun looking a bit “bare”.  It is the way of the garden…even our little gardens here at Horizon House.  Here’s a link that has photos and a few comments about our gardens.

But, to get back to autumn, and how it affects us, AND our gardens.  I decided to write this post because I’ve just begun to read a book about soil, called “Growing a Revolution-Bringing Our Soil Back to Life”, by David Montgomery.  Jean D. had asked if the IMG_7018Garden Committee would co-sponsor a program, with the Conservation Committee featuring David Montgomery, to speak about this new book.   I thought that would be a great idea.  He will be coming to HH sometime in the not too distant future.  Anyway, I’m LOVING this book and how he explains about the soil and how we can replenish it with far less chemical intervention.  Anyway, it got me thinking about how we can get into this “mode” here, even in our little gardens!

It is a totally natural approach.  It’s wonderful, not only for the soil, but for insects, and the wildlife, of which many of us are not really aware.  It is also easier on the gardeners, as the chores we usually accomplish in autumn are diminished.IMG_7028

Our garden beds are looking a bit scruffy right now.  It’s a time when we fussy gardeners think it’s time to clean up all the debris.  STOP!!!  DON’T DO IT!!!!

When we remove all that debris, we stop the soil from replenishing itself.  The leaves, if left alone, will become places for microbes and little critters to hide for the winter.  All those little guys will use the leaves for food, passing it into the soil in a form that can be utilized as the roots gobble it up to feed the plants!  So, don’t be too quick to remove those leaves!IMG_7019

 

IMG_7020Also, the plants themselves, if left standing are happily feeding birds and little creatures.  There are green buds, berries and seeds, all of which keep our wildlife fed and passing it back to the soil as they hop from place to place.IMG_7024

Sure, it doesn’t look wonderful to OUR eyes, but the soil and wildlife will be so appreciative!IMG_7025  Pledge to become a MESSY GARDENER along with the Nature Conservancy.  This link will tell you more about how these techniques will really be good all around!

I think I will write a note in the ALERT telling people that our gardens may be looking a bit “scruffy” during the winter months…and WHY!  So, go ahead and experiment.  Leave those leaves alone, and let’s see what happens.  In the spring, you can clean up your garden if you want.  Letting the leaves break down further will be good for the soil, but if it looks too nasty for you, go ahead and clean it up in the spring, but leave the leaves for now!

Here’s to the Horizon House Garden Committee’s contribution to replenishment of the earth’s soil!  Have fun being MESSY!

 

From the time we are just wee, little ones learning a catchy rhyme, “Rain, rain, go away.  Come again another day!” Until the present time when we stand aghast to read the news about yet another terrible rain event in the form of one or more hurricanes.

Rain is one of those things that we hate one minute but know the next, that we can’t exist without.IMG_0371

The most important element that we need to support life (any kind of life) is WATER!  It comes to us in the form of rain.  Rain fills the oceans and pushes the brooks into the streams, which form the rivers, etc.  So, we cannot do without rain!

 

Some climates have to live with little, or no rain, as in deserts.  Other places like rainforests, have to figure out how to handle the deluges.  As I recall the cliché is “feast or famine”!  Here in the Pacific Northwest, we are usually in the “feast” category…but not always.  This is where our skill, as gardeners and farmers, comes into play!

Our gardens have to handle both an excess of water, or in the dryest season of summer hold onto the little we get.  In other words, sometimes we need to deal with drought, just as we need to deal with the occasional flood.  Generally in the PNW,img_5618 the rain is frequent, but light. It keeps us constantly damp it seems, but doesn’t rain enough to get down to the deep roots where it’s necessary in order to be of any use to the plant above.  So, what are we to do?

As gardeners (I’ll include farmers in that all encompassing word) we all know that along with water, the most important ingredient is the SOIL!  Just like water, soil comes in different forms as well.  In a desert, it’s sand.  In a rainforest, it is almost pure compost. If it rains in the desert, the water is gone almost as soon as it hits the ground, because sand does NOT hold water and the dampness is burned off by the sun.  In the rainforest, the water is enclosed in the rich, deep compost, held in the shade, and available for whatever time is necessary!

What do we learn from this?  In a desert, there are no plants dropping leaves, or falling onto the ground to rot…so there is no compost forming naturally.  In the rainforest, there are trees and plants galore, which shed leaves, break off branches, and support animals that leave their detritus.  All of this falls to the ground, rots and becomes compost.  Now, if we could just get the two together!!!!

THAT is where the gardener begins to display his or her skills, and brains! compost-hand

Essentially, there are three things you need in order to create good soil for your garden. The growing material itself (which we call the soil); water; and air.  We aspire to “perfect” this combination in order to grow our crop, be it vegetables or flowering plants.

BUT, the bottom line is that we need to take the RAIN and hold onto it long enough, and deep enough, for the plants to utilize it.  If a plant is watered and just the top of the soil is dampened, the roots have no way of getting to it.  That is an unhealthy situation.  The roots will aim upward to get to the water, leaving them vulnerable to the next burst of heat, which will dry those roots out, and eventually kill the plant.  Water deeply!  THAT is the weak spot in our rainy climate.  We think because it’s always raining, we shouldn’t need to water, but that is NOT necessarily the case.

We need to figure out how to adjust the soil in order to hold and convey the water down to the roots of the plants.  This is done by combining our soil with compost.  That compost also loosens the soil, allowing space for air to be incorporporated.  A good equation!

In Israel, they have turned the desert into farms.  Go to this site and read how they created this miracle.  But, certainly this is not what we have to do in our PNW gardens, is it?

The Spruce has a wonderful article about building soil to hold water.  It would be worth a visit.

Here’s a link from the University of Maine, Extension Service telling everything you’d possibly need to know about soil,

Here’s to Happy Gardening…and perfect rainfall!

Last time, I talked about Bulb Lasagna, which was the technique of planting your bulbs in a container.  Today, I’ll talk about putting them right in your garden.  Let’s also realize that you probably have some bulbs already in place. Screen Shot 2017-09-13 at 8.44.17 AM On my New Hampshire blog, I had an article about dealing with (already) planted bulbs this time of year.  Even though it talks about bulbs about to experience a rather cold winter, it will help you with fertilizers and treatment for wintering bulbs…no matter what the climate.  100_0120

A year ago, I had an entire blog entry about bulbs.  Here is the link for that.  No sense “re-writing” all the same stuff.  This link tells you the “how’s, why’s and where’s about bulb planting!

If you haven’t bought your bulbs yet, there’s still time.  You can get bulbs at any garden center.  You can also utilize a mail order nursery.  I belong to a Pacific North West Gardening Facebook site where I asked about local Nurseries.  I got two suggestions;  You can check them out here.  Easy To Grow Bulbs or  Roozengaarde in Mt. Vernon.

The nurseries I used ship worldwide, so they are also worth checking.  Their bulbs are “prime”!  White Flower Farm and John Scheepers.

 

BULB LASAGNA

I just read an article about Bulb Lasagna.  It had a link to Molbak’s Garden and Home page, explaining how to do it!  Here’s another article concerning this idea.  It looks like a GRAND idea!  Could I pull it off?  I’d need to add another pot into my garden of pots (pictured above).  Screen Shot 2017-09-13 at 8.44.17 AMThis also might be a possibility for those of you who have “Juliet” balconies with flowers.  But, it may also give others of you some ideas on planting bulbs in general.  We’re getting close to that time.

I guess the idea is to have it in a sheltered area, avoiding the greatest threat of freezing.  Then the pot needs to be deep enough.  Ten (10) inches for two (2) layers and fourteen (14) inches for three (3) layers, etc.  It should be overplanted (on top) with a type of ground cover to keep it looking pretty when it’s not in bloom.

There are also suggestions that you plan on early, mid-season and late blooming bulbs in order to keep the show going longer!  This sounds like fun.

It also brings up the fact that we need to start thinking about planting bulbs in the garden.  Perhaps that will be my next blog entry.

 

The other evening, sitting with other HH residents during Sunny Monday, and while enjoying the D Level Garden, someone commented on a pink cluster of blooms, up on the C level.  Are they lilies or an amaryllis?

From that distance, my guess was lilies, others thought amaryllis.  I thought the best way to find out was to go and take a closer look.  We could also ask the gardener IMG_6290who has it in her garden!  So, I did both!

The gardener is Jane, whose photo I took in the spring, sitting in her garden. Her comment was that it was something she “inherited” when she took over the garden, so she really wasn’t sure WHAT it was!

When I looked at it, it was obviously an amaryllis.  How did I know?  An amaryllis has a straight stalk with strap like leaves coming up directly from the bulb.  A lily has short leaves, growing out from the stalk all the way from the bulb to the flower.

I took some photos of the pink amaryllis from the vantage point we had the other evening,

as well as a few close-ups where you can see it has a straight, leafless stalk from bulb to flower. IMG_6841 It is pretty much done blooming, but it sure was pretty when it was in it’s prime!IMG_6833 (1)

 

 

 

 

 

I also took some photos of lily plants.  They are done blooming and the blooms have been removed, but you can see the difference in the leaves on the stems.

Here is a link that will give you a better explanation about the differences between the amaryllis and lily.

Last week my post was about “dead-heading”.  The gardeners took my lead, and were busy trimming back those dead flower heads.  Someone suggested I post some pictures taken THIS week…when everything looks great.  So, here they are!

 

 

 

Is the garden looking a little tacky?  It’s probably time to be “deadheading”.IMG_6831

At some point, every flower will stop flowering and begin to “set seed”.  The plant’s entire goal in life is to regenerate itself. IMG_6825 When the flower dies all it’s energy goes into making seed.IMG_6820  Unless you WANT seed from that particular plant, it is best to remove the “dead head” of the flower.  If you do this, the plant will try, yet again, to make more seeds, which translates into MORE FLOWERS!  So, deadheading not only makes the plant look neater, it actually stimulates it to make more flowers.

I went down into the three gardening terraces this morning to take pictures of examples.  So, you may see some pictures you’d rather not brag about.  IMG_6823It’s rather like taking pictures of your apartment the day before the cleaning lady comes! (Sorry)  But, they are just examples of when you need to start snipping, picking, plucking and cutting.IMG_6821

Deadheading is when you remove the dead blossoms and plant material from your garden.  I’ll talk a bit about it here, but in the meantime, here’s a link with a YouTube video explaining, and showing how to do it.  Deadheading video

When you “dead-head”, you can remove just the dead blossom, or you can follow the stem holding the dead flower down to the next healthy leaf.  You don’t want to have stumps of ANYTHING in the garden.  When you are done, it should look neat.

If you want, you can just let the seeds fall onto the ground around the mother plant, and hope for more of the same coming up in the spring.  Or you can put the debris into the compost pile.  Just remember, if that compost doesn’t get HOT, those seeds will sprout!

Do watch the little video, it will show you exactly what to do, with a demonstration!  In the meantime, I’ll be looking for nice, neat gardens!  🌺🌻🌱

 

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